On November 5, the Securities and Exchange Commission voted to propose amendments to Rule 14a-8 of the Securities Exchange of 1934 (Exchange Act) to address required share ownership thresholds for a proponent to submit a shareholder proposal, update the “one proposal” rule to clarify the rule that a person can only submit one proposal per meeting and amend the vote support thresholds required for a proponent to resubmit a shareholder proposal at subsequent shareholder meetings.
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On November 5, the Securities and Exchange Commission voted to propose amendments to the rules governing proxy solicitations to expressly apply them to proxy voting advisors. The proposed amendments would codify the SEC’s position that proxy voting advice is a “solicitation” within the meaning of the proxy rules, place certain disclosure requirements on proxy voting advice and define what would be impermissible false or misleading disclosure in the context of proxy voting advice.
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On October 31, Institutional Shareholder Services Inc. (ISS) filed suit against the Securities and Exchange Commission in the US District Court for the District of Columbia, challenging the guidance that the SEC issued in August 2019 regarding the applicability of the federal proxy rules to proxy advisors such as ISS. The SEC’s guidance was previously discussed in the August 23, 2019 edition of Corporate & Financial Weekly Digest.
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The Council of Institutional Investors (CII), an investor advocacy association primarily for pension funds and local governments, has put forth a proposal to amend the Delaware General Corporation Law to limit the ability of publicly-traded Delaware corporations to maintain multi-class common stock voting structures (i.e., high-vote/low-vote stock structures).
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On August 20, a federal magistrate judge in the Eastern District of New York granted a motion for summary judgment in a derivative case brought against purported 10 percent stockholders of 1-800-Flowers.com, Inc. Pursuant to Section 16 of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended, the judge found a hedge fund liable as a 10 percent owner, despite the fact that it had delegated voting and investment authority to its investment adviser.
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Investment Advisers

On August 21, by a vote of 3 to 2, the Securities and Exchange Commission issued interpretive guidance on an investment adviser’s fiduciary duties with respect to voting of proxies for client accounts. The guidance makes clear that advisers may agree with their clients that the client, and not the adviser, will vote proxies, but such guidance is generally impractical for advisers to private funds and registered investment companies (because there is no practical way to assign voting power to the funds).
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On May 11, the staff of the Division of Corporation Finance of the Securities and Exchange Commission (the Staff) issued 45 Compliance and Disclosure Interpretations (C&DIs) that relate to the proxy rules and proxy statements, replacing the Staff’s prior interpretations that were published in the Proxy Rules and Schedule 14A Manual of Publicly Available Telephone Interpretations (the Manual) and the March 1999 Supplement to the Manual (the Supplement). Thirty-five of the C&DIs reiterate prior guidance from the Manual and the Supplement. This article highlights the six C&DIs that reflect substantive changes and the four C&DIs that reflect technical changes to the prior guidance in the Manual and the Supplement. The Staff also noted that it is in the process of updating other previously published interpretations relating to the proxy rules.
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On Thursday, December 8 at 12:00 p.m. (CT), please join Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP, Ernst & Young LLP and Sard Verbinnen & Co. for a webinar discussion of key developments and trends impacting public companies in the 2017 annual report and proxy season.

Further details are available here; click here to register.

On November 21, ISS published its 2017 Proxy Voting Guideline Updates, which will be in effect for meetings held on or after February 1, 2017. The US 2017 updates cover numerous policies, with significant changes summarized below:

Restricting Binding Shareholder Proposals

ISS introduced a new policy to recommend against or withhold from members of the governance committee if a company’s charter imposes undue restrictions on shareholders’ ability to amend its bylaws. Such restrictions include outright prohibition on the submission of binding shareholder proposals, or share ownership requirements or time holding requirements in excess of SEC Rule 14a-8.
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